Dawn Patterson of Funky Fish Designs has been a huge supporter and friend to Project HOPEFUL. Many people flip for the beautiful jewelry she creates for us. Today we’d like to introduce her and Funky Fish Designs to our readers.

PH:You’re quite a prolific artist. You’ve created so many unique and beautiful pieces for Project HOPEFUL. How to you stay inspired and keep your creativity churning?

DP: I honestly have to give the creativity aspect to God. I whole heartedly believe He has given me this talent so I must give credit where credit is due. One thing I don’t do is force creativity. When I force it, I end up with a mess of beads. Often, I’ll see a design in my head and I will just roll with it. I also have some of my best conversations with God when I’m creating. I find that when I mass produce something, I lose some of the inspiration, so I try to keep changing out the designs to keep the creativity fresh and alive in my head.

PH: I love how you’ve turned your jewelry making abilities into a ministry that serves others. When did it first occur to you that thinking outside of the box with your work could lead to orphan advocacy?

DP: May 2009. That is when the wheels started to churn. I’ve been making jewelry a very long time and started my own business in 2003 but it wasn’t until 2009 that I really felt what direction God was calling me. Our church was on a mission trip to a small community in Zeway to care for orphans. I posted this on my Funky Fish facebook page:
Where I feel God leading me….
Posted on May 28, 2009 at 7:27am

My heart lately is on a village in Africa named Ziway (Zeway) that our church has been working with. I have been praying and wondering if there is a way I can use the hands God gave me, with the abilities he has given me to help with this village.

PH: How did you come to learn about Project HOPEFUL?

DP: I learned about Project HOPEFUL at the Together for Adoption conference in Austin. I saw this really cute, funky blond who had jewelry for sale…specifically paper beads. A girl after my own heart. Maybe I should go over and meet her, I thought. So, I came up with a silly question to ask her…I believe it was “are you going to cover your table tonight?” And the conversation went on from there.

PH:  Why was a Funky Fish/Project HOPEFUL collaboration important to you?

DP: I saw a passion in Carolyn. I know that passion. And I love that passion. There is so much stigma surround HIV. When I met Carolyn, I was fresh off a trip to Ethiopia where I met an orphaned sibling group that was completely marginalized because of their HIV status. They were not allowed to use the community latrine and the sanitation issue was horrible. I met another orphaned girl who had been disowned by her family because of her HIV status since her father died. She was told she was cursed by the evil eye and she tried to kill herself because that seemed better to her than living with HIV. This is NOT ok. They are children. They did not choose this. And they should not feel shame. I heard a pastor say that shame becomes more about who we are than what we have done. I wanted to be able to make something that speaks truth and can help raise awareness to the needs of these children.

PH: Jewelry and advocacy might seem worlds apart to some. But, you’ve got some really cool stories about how you’ve used your skills to help women in Africa. Can you share one with our readers?

DP: Can I share two? :o) I think probably the most exciting thing has been being able to work with the same group of orphaned girls two times. It was amazing to see how much they learned from the first visit. During my visit last July, I spent 2 days with 12 girls. During those 2 days, I taught them a very simple bracelet design and taught them about colors & patterns. Between the 12 of them, they made about 40 bracelets. This year, I had 5 hours with 10 girls. In 5 hours, they produced the same amount of jewelry. When I asked them if they needed a refresher course, they just giggled at me and went right to work. What’s even more exciting is what was done with the money from the bracelet sales. These girls are being supported through a partnership with Food for the Hungry & Grace Covenant church (www.zewayupdate.blogspot.com) so they are not living off the money they received from the sale of the bracelets. Savings accounts were opened for the girls and they are using them to do things such as petty trading and purchasing goats & poultry. One girl used the funds to help her brother who was at University. They other really awesome thing is just the way God multiplied the finances. My friend and I dreamed really big about making jewelry, selling it and sending a boatload of money to the orphans and Zeway. God answered our prayers in a tremendous way. God allowed us to send almost $16,000 last year to the orphans in Zeway through the sale of jewelry made with…..paper. I love it!!

PH: What’s next for Funky Fish?

DP: Wow…that is a really good question. Right now I am working on trying to work smarter, not harder. A friend said to me recently “you can’t let your two hands limit your ministry”. I am praying through the “what’s next?” I just visited Zeway again in March. I’d love for Project HOPEFUL to visit Zeway one day and spread some TRUTH. Hint, Hint :o) In the meantime, I will keep doing what God has asked me to do….make jewelry and love orphans. Matthew 25:40 says “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. We are ALL called to do SOMETHING. And everyone has something they can be doing.

PH:  Where can people get their hands on your gorgeous jewelry other than the pieces you design exclusively for the Project HOPEFUL shop?

www.funkyfishdesigns.com